Vitus ZX-1 EVO 105 review

Freda Walters

Vitus’s original ZX-1 was a very well-priced aero-optimised race bike that fast became the ride of choice for the Vitus Pro Cycling Team. For this 2021 revamp the designers wanted to not only improve the ZX-1’s aero performance but also bring more race-oriented handling to the party. To achieve this […]

Vitus’s original ZX-1 was a very well-priced aero-optimised race bike that fast became the ride of choice for the Vitus Pro Cycling Team.

For this 2021 revamp the designers wanted to not only improve the ZX-1’s aero performance but also bring more race-oriented handling to the party. To achieve this they first borrowed the geometry from Vitus’s lightweight race option, the Vitesse EVO.

Then, rather than just updating the frame and fork, Vitus took a holistic approach, redesigning the complete bike as an aerodynamic entity.

This means that whichever model you choose from the six-bike range – from the ‘entry-level’ 105-equipped bike I’m testing here and Vitus ZX-1 EVO CRS Ultegra Di2 we tested earlier this year, to the SRAM Red AXS version – you’re getting genuine aerodynamic deep-section carbon wheels from Reynolds.

All the bikes come with fully integrated internal cabling too, thanks to Vitus’s collaboration with FSA and the component company’s ACR (Aerodynamic Cable Routing) stem system.

The spec includes a bladed aero seatpost.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Vitus ZX-1 EVO 105 aero claims

Most of Vitus’s rivals will make claims on their bikes’ aerodynamic credentials in the wind tunnel, and how they line up against their rivals, but Vitus takes a slightly different approach, arguing that in the real world there are so many variables that most aero claims are fairly meaningless, even listing sock height, helmet and whether you can ride in a super-tuck (not in a race, of course) as factors that affect aero efficiency.

Vitus claims that drag from the new frameset is 18 per cent lower than its predecessor, and its designer told me that in wind tunnel tests the complete bike is also significantly more aerodynamic than the outgoing machine.

“We’ve tested this bike’s aerodynamics to validate our own design decisions,” he said. “It exhibits up to 45 per cent less drag than the previous ZX-1 when built as a full bike. Trust us when we say we’ve done our bit and this bike is fast… the rest is up to you.”

Vitus ZX-1 EVO 105 spec details

If you look at most of the ZX-1’s rivals at this price point, you’ll find non-aero bars and stems, semi-internal cabling and non-aero wheels, often euphemistically called ‘training wheels’.

The ZX-1’s wheels and cockpit are especially impressive to see on a bike at this price.

The wheelset alone would normally retail for £1,200 – a hell of a chunk of the total cost – while FSA’s SMR ACR stem and the Prime Primavera carbon bar create a clean-looking and aerodynamic front end.

And because it’s a separate stem and bar rather than a one-piece design, you get more adjustability and choice should you want to swap the bar at some point. In fact, I think this is one area where this model actually outperforms the pricier ZX-1 EVO models.

Those are ‘upgraded’ to Vision’s one-piece 5D Metron bar, which is light, aerodynamic, cool-looking and also works with FSA’s ACR standard. But, as the ZX-1 is an internet-only purchase, you have to be absolutely sure the 5D’s dimensions suit your preferred bar width and stem length.

Cockpit of the Vitus ZX-1 EVO 105 road bike

The separate bar and stem give you more adjustability.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

The plus side is that the ZX-1’s price tag is much, much less than that of its rivals, no matter which model you choose. In our recent test of the best aero road bikes the top performer was the Cannondale SystemSix with SRAM Red AXS.

This retails at a hefty £10,500, very nearly twice the price of the similarly SRAM-equipped Vitus ZX-1 EVO, and Vitus delivers similar value throughout the range.

This reincarnated ZX-1 feels more like a race bike than an aero bike to ride. Its new front end is very direct, whereas its predecessor suffered from a little front-end flex and could feel slightly vague under high-speed cornering.

Male cyclist in blue riding the Vitus ZX-1 EVO 105 road bike

This reincarnated ZX-1 feels more like a race bike than an aero bike to ride; it’s all about high-speed agility.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

That stiffer front end also makes the ZX-1 feel more stable, and comfort is decent too for an aero road bike. Even with the bladed aero seatpost, the dropped seatstays add some rear-end compliance and dull down road noise pretty well.

You don’t get the smoothness of an endurance bike but you’re not getting the granite-like stiffness and the punishing road vibrations you’d have experienced on an early aero road bike.

Vitus ZX-1 EVO 105 geometry

The geometry on my XL test bike is similar to that of the previous model, with just a couple of millimetres added to the stack (578mm); at 406mm the reach is long and the parallel 73-degree angles are suitably steep and racy.

The 45mm fork rake combines with the steep head angle and 25mm tyres to deliver a trail of around 56mm.

It’s this shorter trail figure that imbues the ZX-1 EVO with the sort of speedily sharp handling that I’d expect from bikes such as Giant’s TCR and Cannondale’s SuperSix EVO, rather than an aero road bike where the default tends to be towards more trail and slower handling for high-speed stability; here it’s all about high-speed agility.

Vitus ZX-1 EVO 105 gearing and brakes

The Vitus’s Shimano 105 gearing, pairing a pro-compact 52/36 chainset and 11-32 cassette, is a good choice, offering sensible gears at both ends of the spectrum.

Vitus ZX-1 EVO 105 road bike is equipped with a Shimano’s 105 groupset

Shimano’s 105 group is utterly dependable.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

The 52×11 top gear is more than enough for most aero-assisted super-fast efforts, while the 36×32 is roughly equivalent to a 34×30 pairing on a compact, and will help ease you up pretty much any ascent.

The 105 drivetrain is as impressive as we’ve come to expect from Shimano’s third-tier road bike groupset. Shifting was smooth and accurate and the hydraulic disc brakes performed just as I’d hoped, with only the occasional squeak after prolonged braking on fast descents.

No brake noise and the absence of rubbing rotors when you’re sprinting or climbing show there’s plenty of stiffness from the frame and fork.

Vitus ZX-1 EVO 105 wheels and tyres

The ZX-1’s quality wheelset really helps the ride shine. The Reynolds AR 58/62 DB wheels feature deep-section tubeless-ready carbon rims and Sapim spokes, and they’re backed by a lifetime warranty too, which is a handy bonus. It was a smart move by Reynolds to reduce the depth of the front rim compared with the deeper rear.

The front rim’s 58mm depth is still quite deep, though, so you do feel pressure on it from crosswinds – on gusty days you need to concentrate when passing hedgerow gaps and gates – but when the weather is less breezy these wheels offer speed benefits you can really notice.

As with the rims, the 25mm Schwalbe One Performance TLE tyres are tubeless-ready.

They’re decent and grippy tyres too, although their 25mm width does mean they convey plenty of vibrations from poor road surfaces – for my local testing routes I’d switch up to 28mm rubber for a little bit more compliance.

But I could easily live with this bike for the lifetime of its tyres. If you wanted you could go wider still, the ZX-1 EVO can accommodate tyres up to 30mm wide.

If you did want to swap tyres, check out our list of the best tubeless road tyres to see our test team’s top-rated recommendations.

Vitus ZX-1 EVO 105 bottom line

Male cyclist in blue riding the Vitus ZX-1 EVO 105 road bike

Vitus took a holistic approach, redesigning the complete bike as an aerodynamic entity.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Vitus’s ZX-1 has been going for 20 years but the new ZX-1 is an absolute triumph. It’s a complete aero package and, at this price, you won’t find another bike anything like as well equipped.

The newest EVO incarnation of the ZX-1 chassis is seriously fast, it has a superb carbon cockpit and a set of quality aero wheels for a spec that wouldn’t be out of place on a superbike, with a performance to match.

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